The Lakers finished the regular season with the sixth-worst record in the NBA with 27 wins and 55 losses, in turn also giving them the worst record in franchise history.
However, during this season in particular, tanking was the best option for the team. The NBA draft lottery will happen on May 20, where they have a 6.3 percent chance of landing the first overall pick.
The Lakers obviously have many areas of concern that they need to address, and with the upcoming draft being regarded as one of the deepest in recent history, it is absolutely key that they land a player who can come in and not only contribute right away, but also become a building block for the future.
One of the areas of need for Los Angeles is attaining a dynamic floor general for the future. Ever since the league denied their acquisition of Chris Paul back in December 2011, the Lakers have been searching for the long-term answer at the point guard spot.
The Purple and Gold eventually signed Steve Nash and, well, as great as Nash was in his prime, he just simply cannot escape the injury bug and has really been only a shell of his old self during his time in L.A.
Los Angeles found a gem in the NBA D-League in Kendall Marshall, who got off to a great start in L.A., but unfortunately, he did not finish strong and really struggled shooting the ball down the stretch. Overall, his play was still very encouraging, averaging nearly nine assists per game, and he certainly deserves to stay with the team.
However, Marshall is just not the long-term solution as the Lakers’ starting point guard. He could fit perfectly on the second unit, but the Lakers need a more dynamic playmaker at the point in order to compete in the West, where nearly every team is headed by a top-notch point guard.
L.A. could go a number of different directions during the upcoming NBA draft, but if they decide to draft a point guard, there are two players they will strongly consider.
Let’s take a look at their two best options.
Dante Exum, Australia, 18-Year-Old Point Guard
The 6’6”, 188-pound Australian product is one of the most exciting players in the 2014 NBA draft.
Exum is a long and athletic point guard who is great in transition and excellent at penetrating to the basket in the half court.
He really pushes the pace and makes quick decisions with the ball. He can throw it down at the rim and is also a good passer.
If you’ve never seen any tape on the Aussie, you may want to take a look at a few of his highlights below.
His only apparent flaws are that he could still add a little extra strength and, most importantly, become a more consistent outside shooter. His shooting form has nicely improved from initial evaluations of him two years ago, but he can still improve his consistency when he arrives in the NBA.
Exum would thrive in L.A. Heck, he’s already been seen at several Lakers games and even was spotted outside of the locker room.
Draft prospect Dante Exum was in the hallway outside the Lakers locker room with his agent, Rob Pelinka after the game.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 20, 2014
He’s also moved to Los Angeles from Australia to train for the draft, and his trainer is none other than the renowned Tim Grover, who also happens to train Kobe Bryant.
Dante Exum has all of the potential to come into the Lakers organization and become a dynamic force, ideally evolving to a level that is right up there with the other elite point guards in the Western Conference.
He would bring athleticism, scoring and playmaking abilities to the point guard spot that the Lakers haven’t had in quite some time. He would also have the advantage of being groomed under the guidance of one of the best players of all time in Bryant, as well as one of the greatest point guards of all time in Steve Nash.
The one catch in the whole Exum situation is that it is widely believed he will be taken before the Lakers pick at No. 6. L.A. may need to get lucky in the lottery to be able to grab Exum.
If the Lakers decide to take a point guard in the upcoming draft and Exum is off of the board, they still have a great second option.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, Sophomore Point Guard
At 6’4” and 225 pounds, Marcus Smart is physically ready to play in the NBA right now. He is a strong and physical point guard and is a natural-born leader.
Smart is an excellent penetrator and finishes well at the basket. He possesses an incredible motor and really excels on the defensive end. He has super-quick hands, allowing him to average an impressive 2.9 steals per game.
Along with the steals, he also averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists this past season at Oklahoma State.
Smart is a good rebounder at the guard spot and can also alternate between playing the 1 and the 2 whenever needed.
His most glaring flaw is his lack of consistency on his jump shot. Sometimes he can’t miss, and other times he’s lucky to hit the side of the backboard. He’ll need to at least find some middle ground when he gets to the NBA and continue to improve upon that.
Take a look at these highlights from one of his best games of the year against Memphis, where you can see a little bit of everything Smart can bring to the table, especially when his jumper is falling.
One of Smart’s most encouraging qualities is his competitiveness. He is an ultra-competitor who wears his heart on his sleeve and leaves everything he has on the floor.
Those competitive instincts would be much admired by Kobe Bryant, who would be able to help tutor Smart in his game as well as in the mental toughness it takes to become great.
For the Lakers, Smart would be able to come in and learn from Bryant and Nash and either back up Nash for his first season or come in and start right away if they elect to bring Nash off of the bench instead.
Marcus Smart would bring a much-needed intensity and physicality to the Lakers’ roster, as well as being a tough-minded scorer who can also pass and get after it on defense.
Overall, if the Los Angeles Lakers decide to draft a point guard in the upcoming 2014 NBA draft, they can’t go wrong with either Dante Exum or Marcus Smart.